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Russians Lawmakers Recognize Georgian Breakaway Regions


RUSSIA-GEORGIA: Russian lawmakers have urged President Dmitri Medvedev to recognize two breakaway Georgian regions as independent states -- a move likely to further strain Moscow's relations with the West.
The upper and lower houses of Russia's parliament passed a resolution unanimously today (Monday) calling for recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The resolution is not legally binding. It is up to Mr. Medvedev to make the final call on diplomatic recognition of the two breakaway regions.
The speaker of the upper house, Sergei Mironov, says South Ossetia and Abkhazia have a right to independence.

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ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS: Israeli officials have released 198 Palestinian prisoners, just hours before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Rice is to hold meetings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv today (Monday) on peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Tuesday, she will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank for more talks.
Some of the prisoners kissed the ground outside Olef Prison after being released today. They were then driven to a Palestinian checkpoint near the city of Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to host them at a formal celebration later in the day.

PAKISTAN-TALIBAN: Pakistan says it has banned a key Taliban group after the militants claimed responsibility for a twin suicide bombing last week that killed at least 64 people.
Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik announced the decision (against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) today (Monday), a day after Pakistani officials rejected a Taliban cease-fire in Bajaur, a tribal region along the Afghan border.
Pakistani security forces have been fighting Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants in Bajaur and other tribal regions on the Afghan border for weeks. More than 500 militants and 22 soldiers have been killed in the offensive and thousands more people displaced.

THAILAND-THAKSIN: Prosecutors in Thailand asked the Supreme Court today (Monday) to seize two-point-two billion dollars in cash and assets belonging to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his family.
The prosecutors alleged that the assets were gained in part through corruption during Mr. Thaksin's five years in office. He was ousted in a military coup in 2006.
Mr. Thaksin and his family members have denied any wrong-doing. He is currently in exile in Britain.
Last week, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife could keep their diplomatic passports despite having fled to Britain to avoid corruption charges.

US POLITICS: The U.S. Democratic Party's National Convention opens later today (Monday) in Denver, Colorado, where the first-ever African-American candidate will accept his party's nomination for president of the United States.
The convention consists of four days of rallies, speeches and meetings, capped by Thursday's acceptance speech by Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
The Republican Party holds its national convention next week.

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